Monday, November 10, 2003


I'm going to post a series of poems about corn. As in on-the-cob. I have written two series of poems about corn. The first, "Husk," appeared in "Spillway" a year or two ago. This series remains untitled. The first section is free verse, an anomaly for me, and is based on a true story that has haunted me for years. The image of the fat, disheveled, mute, withdrawn woman, all alone in the midnight kitchen, making and eating corn struck me as impossibly sad. I identified with her completely. So I resurrected her as artist and lover in this series. Art, food, sexuality, loneliness, family. The first section introduces Marcelle, and, hopefully, gives us a glimpse of the speaker's father.


Jim felt sorry for his wife, my father said,
Marcelle really let herself go,
she got fat, her teeth were bad,
she never left the house,
didn’t comb her hair, change her nightgown or wash,
she even stopped talking and sleeping, but mainly
she couldn’t stop eating,
it was crazy, Jim said, toward the end
he’d find her in the kitchen at 2 or 3 in the morning
with all the lights out,
and she’d be boiling corn -- corn ! -- the dozen ears
of butter-and-sugar he’d just bought at Angelo’s
would be rattling in the old cast iron cookpot,
the windows would be blank with steam,
husks and silk would be plastered everywhere,
she’d be at the table eating corn, Jesus,
even with her bad teeth she could strip those cobs clean,
and by daybreak eight or nine sticks of oleo
would be flattened, Jim said,
where she’d put each ear through exactly three
slow, careful revolutions, he’d watched her, he said,
and it was terrible.

After they rushed her to Bon Secours
and opened her up
they found a tumor as big as a pumpkin.
You know. Down there,
my father said.

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